the start of the bat breeding season, NSW Health has urged people not to
approach or handle injured bats and flying foxes to avoid the risk of exposure
to potentially fatal lyssaviruses.
far this year, more than 300 NSW residents have been given rabies post exposure
prophylaxis (PEP) following high-risk exposures to potentially infected
animals. About one-third had been bitten or scratched by a bat in Australia, while
the others had come into contact with potentially rabies-infected animals
Vicky Sheppeard, Director of Communicable Diseases Branch, said there had been
three bats confirmed with the potentially fatal lyssavirus in NSW this year.
are concerned that with the start of the bat birthing season, in October and
November, young and miscarried pups may be on the ground, prompting people to
pick them up or attempt to rescue them,” Dr Sheppeard said.
of infection in several bats this year highlights the importance of avoiding
bat bites and scratches. Lyssavirus infection can result in a rabies-like
illness which is very serious and, if not prevented, is fatal.
have been three cases of lyssavirus in humans
in Australia – all were in Queensland – and all three people died.”
Sheppeard said the best protection against being exposed tolyssaviruses is to
avoid handling any bat in Australia, and any wild or domestic mammal in a
rabies-endemic country. This includes bats and wild or domestic dogs, cats and
should avoid all contact with bats as there is always the possibility of being
scratched or bitten and it leading to infection. You should always assume that
all bats and flying foxes are infectious, regardless of whether the animal
looks sick or not,” she said.
people who have been fully vaccinated against rabies, use protective equipment
and have been trained in bat handling should touch bats.
someone is bitten or scratched by any type of bat they should thoroughly clean
the wound for at least five minutes with soap and water as soon as possible,
apply an antiseptic such asBetadine and seek urgent medical advice.
may require a series of injections to protect againstlyssavirus infection and
the first two need to be given as soon as possible. It is important you seek
advice from your GP or local public health unit regarding treatment.”
a bat is injured or in distress, do not attempt to rescue it. Contact the
experts at WIRES on 1300 094 737.
more information, visit: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/Rabies-Australian-Bat-Lyssavirus-Infection.aspx
your Local Public Health Unit, phone 1300 066 055.